Volunteers asked to study how to close at least two of six schools identified for potential consolidation soon could be asking their elected leaders for advice.
Monday night, members of the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group agreed to form a subcommittee to communicate directly with the Lawrence school board.
The seven-member subcommittee — like the larger working group, to be made up of members representing Cordley, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Pinckney, Sunset Hill and Woodlawn schools — will be empowered to seek board input if:
• The working group wants to vary from its formal charge, which currently calls for consolidating the list of six schools — Woodlawn is excluded — into either three or four within two to three years.
• Conditions change enough to shift assumptions reached when the working group had been envisioned back in February.
“Time has changed,” said Chuck Epp, a Kansas University professor and member of the working group, representing the Cordley community. “There are new facts on the ground.”
Among the key facts: Only three of the board’s seven members had a vote in creating the working group, setting its course and scheduling its planned completion.
Now, nearly six months after four new board members were elected — and three months since they took office — the new majority could get a chance to offer input regarding the working group’s direction before the group’s final recommendations are due by the end of January.
All the working group needs to do is ask, and at least one board member is looking forward to the opportunity.
“It’s hard to see the downside,” said Rick Ingram, who received the most votes in the April board election and has attended the past three meetings of the group as an observer. “I think we need to listen with an open mind to anything they want to talk to us about.”
In addition to agreeing that they would appoint the subcommittee Oct. 17, group members also rejected the concept of appointing an executive committee, at least for now. They also favor making times available for individual group members to make voluntary visits to schools on the consolidation list.
Members also reviewed enrollment data and asked for more numbers to help them consider plans that could call for closing some schools while adding onto others or even building a school or two anew, financed by a bond issue.
But the prospect of closing two schools without adding classrooms elsewhere drew gasps from group members, as they crunched numbers projected on a large screen.
“If that bond doesn’t pass, and we don’t have any money … we don’t see how you can close any of these schools and not make the three, four, five schools around it jump over capacity,” said Sally Kelsey, a representative from the Cordley community. “(Then) there’s no capacity, really, to close a school.”